St. Louis Blues (+113) at Chicago Blackhawks (-125, 5 o/u)
The St. Louis Blues (48-23-9, 105 pts) and the Chicago Blackhawks (47-26-7, 101 pts) could be mere days away from meeting in the first round of the playoff. The Blues can ensure they would have home-ice advantage in that matchup with a single point in their last regular season game against the Hawks tonight at the United Center (8:30 PM Eastern).
St. Louis has bigger aspirations than just home-ice against Chicago, though. The team is currently tied with the Dallas Stars for first in the Central Division with 105 points, but Dallas owns the tiebreaker thanks to more regulation and OT wins (46 for Dallas; 43 for St. Louis). If the Blues can edge the Stars for the division title, they would have a much cushier matchup with the Wild in the first round of the playoffs.
Goaltending has been one of the strengths for St. Louis all year, with Jake Allen and Brian Elliott each seeing their share of action. It remains to be seen who coach Ken Hitchcock will ride in the postseason. Allen got the majority of starts to begin the year, but he’s been out (lower body) since the All-Star Break, and Elliott has been outstanding since then, posting a 12-1-1 record with a 1.74 goals-against average and four shutouts.
Chicago fell off the pace in the Central when they lost seven of nine in mid March, but the champs appear to be back on their game in the nick of time, winning three in a row and five of their last six, including a 6-2 thrashing of the Coyotes last night.
All the more impressive is the fact that they’ve turned things around in spite of significant injuries, including starting goalie Corey Crawford, and forwards Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw, and Artem Anisimov. Star defenseman Duncan Keith is also serving a suspension.
Patrick Kane, who is poised to capture his first Art Ross Trophy (102 points), has been phenomenal over the past three, lighting the lamp five times and adding three assists, padding his lead in the scoring race.
The season series is tied a two wins apiece, but St. Louis’ victories came in overtime or a shootout. Chicago is 15-4 SU in its last 19 games at home against St. Louis.
Pick: Blackhawks (-125).
(Photo Credit: BagoGames (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].)